Tumor microenvironment (TME) exerts key roles in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) development. However, the factors regulating the cross-talk between PDAC cells and TME are largely unknown. In the present study, we identified a long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) KLHDC7B divergent transcript (KLHDC7B-DT), which was up-regulated in PDAC and correlated with poor survival of PDAC patients. Functional assays demonstrated that KLHDC7B-DT enhanced PDAC cell proliferation, migration, and invasion. Mechanistically, KLHDC7B-DT was found to directly bind IL-6 promoter, induce open chromatin structure at IL-6 promoter region, activate IL-6 transcription, and up-regulate IL-6 expression and secretion. The expression of KLHDC7B-DT was positively correlated with IL-6 in PDAC tissues. Via inducing IL-6 secretion, KLHDC7B-DT activated STAT3 signaling in PDAC cells in an autocrine manner. Furthermore, KLHDC7B-DT also activated STAT3 signaling in macrophages in a paracrine manner, which induced macrophage M2 polarization. KLHDC7B-DT overexpressed PDAC cells-primed macrophages promoted PDAC cell proliferation, migration, and invasion. Blocking IL-6/STAT3 signaling reversed the effects of KLHDC7B-DT on macrophage M2 polarization and PDAC cell proliferation, migration, and invasion. In conclusion, KLHDC7B-DT enhanced malignant behaviors of PDAC cells via IL-6-induced macrophage M2 polarization and IL-6-activated STAT3 signaling in PDAC cells. The cross-talk between PDAC cells and macrophages induced by KLHDC7B-DT represents potential therapeutic target for PDAC.

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